JULIAN SAYS: We must recognise the need to develop higher-level selling skills and become salespeople rather than simply polite dispensers of information.
One of the forgotten elements of a proper professional sales approach is the skill of agenda setting. Every customer-facing event in estate agency is improved by starting it off in the right way. A brief but clear agenda achieves that.
Whether it be the agenda at the start of a conversation with a brand new applicant, at the beginning of an accompanied viewing or to kick off a valuation appointment in the best possible way, there are some recognised and crucial best practice principles that need to be applied.
The agent opened the door of the house and said ‘help yourself’ while he stayed outside on his phone…
An effective agenda achieves a number of key objectives. It helps the person on the receiving end understand what is about to happen, what the benefits are of how this event is going to play out and allows them to relax in the knowledge that they are in the safe hands of a professional. For the salesperson, the benefits include seizing control of the situation at the outset, as well as being perceived as different (in a positive way) to other agents they have interacted with.
To be effective, an agenda needs to have four component parts:
The PROCESS is what you are going to do or how the meeting/ event is going to go. You might say to a new applicant registering for the first time: “What I would like to do is ask you a few questions about your requirements…”
With a vendor or landlord on a valuation appointment: “What I’d like to do is have a good look round the property. I’d appreciate you showing me round so I don’t miss anything and perhaps you can point out what you’ve done to the property and what attracted you to buy it…” On an accompanied viewing: “I thought we would start downstairs then upstairs then outside. I know the property well so please ask any questions as we go round. At the end, I will ask about your thoughts on the price so we can feed that back to our client…”
On our mystery shopper calls and during our consultancy work with agents, agendas are few and far between… “I’ll just register your details…” when dealing with a new applicant, “Let me have a look round then we will sit and have a chat” with vendors/landlords on valuations and the classic I witnessed recently on an accompanied viewing where the agent simply opened the door to a vacant property and said “Help yourself” before staying outside on his mobile phone.
The second element – the ‘WIIFM?’ or ‘What’s in it for me?’ – is important as it makes clear to the recipient exactly how the PROCESS will benefit them. Naturally this will vary but an example at the start of an applicant registration conversation would be, “So that we can find you the right property quickly and accurately and not waste your time with anything unsuitable”.
On a valuation, it might be that the WIIFM is “to help get you the best possible price” or “to ensure we can market your property to its full potential” or “so we can give you the right advice on how to get a successful sale within your desired timeframe”. On a viewing it might be “so you can get a full idea of everything the property has to offer” or “so you can take your time to help you decide if it is the right property”. The simpler the WIIFM? is for the client, the more readily they will accept your process.
The third stage – ‘DURATION’ – is simple enough; the agenda needs to include advice to the recipient as to how long the PROCESS will take. On an applicant registration, it might be 5-10 minutes. Perhaps 15-20 minutes on a viewing, 45 minutes to an hour on a valuation. This stage is a courtesy to ensure the customer knows how long to expect the PROCESS to take.
And finally, ‘PERMISSION’ means three little words – “Is that OK?” The language here is important if you are to avoid forcing your agenda upon the customer. To start the agenda with “What I’d like to do is…” and end it with “Is that OK?” is deferential language, seeking approval and agreement from the customer to your suggested agenda, rather than you simply telling them what is going to happen.
Agendas are underutilised – making them a key part of your sales approach will be hugely beneficial.